The vision for a massive planned community in North Raleigh is becoming clearer.
The developer of 5401 North wants to rezone more than 400 acres at the northeast corner of the intersection of Louisburg Road and Interstate 540, to add a grocery store and a brew-pub that could benefit students in the beer-making program at Wake Technical Community College.
Commercial Properties Realty Trust, a Louisiana-based developer, presented its case before Raleigh City Council this week. The development, located between the Neuse River and Louisburg Road, is also the home of Riverbend Elementary School and sits just south of Wake Tech's northern campus.
The community would eventually be home to around 1,400 single-family homes, townhomes and apartment units, including a "town center," where office and retail space could be built.
Dozens of single-family homes have already been built in 5401 North, and construction on four apartment buildings is expected to start later this month, said Mack Paul, a real estate lawyer with Morningstar Law Group, which is representing the developers. Homes start in the upper $200,000s.
Commercial Properties also wants to build offices and retail space in its first phase of construction. The goal is to create a town center feel inside of a suburban neighborhood by having single-family homes mix with apartments, office and retail.
"The idea is to be a real amenity for that area of the city, and have a real community feel," Paul said. "There are a handful of these town-center-type developments, like Meadowmont and Southern Village in Chapel Hill. They take a while to develop because they are not in the city center and take some time to gain the support."
The rezoning request asks for limited changes — mainly around adding light-industrial space and creating a grid-street pattern around a public square in the "town center" — but the presentation revealed that the developers were in talks with a grocery store and collaborating with Wake Tech on an educational brewery.
When told that the community would be asking for zoning approval for light industrial and self storage, City Councilman David Cox expressed concern about the possibility of a self-storage facility being built.
But Paul assured the councilman that there would be no self storage, and that the light industrial zoning was for a brewery. The potential partnership with Wake Tech would allow the school to use some of the brewery as an educational facility for students in its craft beer brewing program. Anthony Caison, vice president of Wake Tech's workforce continuing education program, said that the school would not be selling the beer made by the students.
Currently, Wake Tech students have nowhere to make the recipes they come up with, Paul told the City Council.
The topic of a grocery store was brought up after the group asked for the ability to allow further setbacks for buildings, so that a grocery store could build a parking lot.
The rezoning was recommended for approval by the planning commission and the Forestville Citizens Advisory Council. The City Council is expected to take a vote on the rezoning in early July.
5401 North dates back to 2006, but it was delayed when the recession hit last decade. The project has begun to gain momentum in recent years, as the single-family portion of the community steadily adds homes. Level Homes, Lennar and Chesapeake Homes all have developed lots there.
Those homes were necessary before developers could begin building the retail and office portion of the community.
"In suburban areas it takes a while to create the market for commercial services," Paul said. "We had to get more people living there first."